Day 25 of 40 days of devotion

Written by John Evans

Scene: Light bulb shop, Monivong Boulevard, Phnom Penh, 8.15 am, January 2018

The early morning was cool and the street was waking up. Shopkeepers were washing down the pavements in front of their traditional “shop house” buildings – where they lived upstairs and traded at ground level. The wide boulevard was as clean as it ever would be: the city’s rubbish collectors had done their best overnight and groups of men and women were sat around sorting the recyclable materials that they would sell on to support their families.

I was glad I was out in the pleasant morning. I had been working out where a particular, rather modern, replacement lightbulb could be purchased and had narrowed the search to a group of lighting shops on Monivong Boulevard. These shops were no more than a quarter mile from our apartment and, like many Asian cities, in this one part of town the options for purchasing lightbulbs were too many to count! Elsewhere in the city buying a particular lightbulb might be a nightmare.

The second shop I tried was a truly specialist lightbulb emporium! They sold, as far as I could see, nothing but lightbulbs. Every kind imaginable. I produced the old bulb from my bag and made for the counter. My Khmer is not up to asking “if you have one of these please?” but waving the old bulb, saying ‘please’ and the fact I was in this particular shop did the trick!

Suddenly, the shop owner’s search for the new-style bulb I needed came to an end. Behind me a monk had appeared. Swathed in orange with a matching parasol and leather flip flops he just stood behind me, saying nothing. Over his shoulder he carried his stainless steel pot and it was clear that he was a regular, early morning caller. With no word exchanged the shop keeper disappeared into a back room and returned with some rice, wrapped in a few wide, green leaves. Though he was probably three times the age of the monk he approached the monk with obvious respect, head bowed, and placed the rice in the monk’s pot.

At this the monk broke into a chant. The man stayed, head bowed, before the young monk as he gave thanks and blessed the man, his household and his business.

In that moment, I was reminded of the extraordinary devotion my Lord and Saviour has for me. That he cares for me with extravagant love. That he has not only given my life purpose but that he has also intervened decisively in order to save me from the consequences of my wickedness. That he – extraordinarily- has also gone a step further and welcomed me into his family as an adopted brother.

I watched and wondered at the scene playing out before me. Would that I had the sophisticated Khmer needed to understand what was being said.

I was grateful, in that moment, that I had been chased down all those years ago. That I could still remember that time when the bloody, filthy death of a man, who was and is God, was taken off the pages of history and became real and personal to me. I was instantly grateful that the love that impelled father to give up the life of his only son in the context of justice still flowed towards me.

Grandfather now, I could no more imagine what losing either my son or my grandson’s lives would be like. Sandwiched between Christmas and Easter I only knew, again, the thankfulness, the inexpressible joy that bubbles up whenever I am reminded of the graceful, loving devotion of my Lord. To me.

After the monk had gone I purchased the lightbulb: “Made in China” it stated on the box.

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